The Garden Spotter

Summer at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens


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Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, located just off the beaten path in Boothbay Harbor, Maine is always a treat, but in mid summer it reaches its peak. Essentially, everything that blooms is busily doing its thing—while insects and tourists savor and swarm.

Coneflower dots the the rolling landscape in pink, white and dark red, joined by nepeta, russian sage, rudbekia and others. Hydrangea explodes in puffs as blue as the August sky.

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Those who know and love this 250 acres of prime oceanfront property fondly refer to it as “The Gardens.” And that is an apt description because the land is actually divided into separate garden “rooms,” or areas, that focus on different aspects of horticulture. There’s the Lerner Garden of the Five Senses near the visitors center, which aims to stimulate the senses with color, scent and texture, and the Haney Hillside Garden which winds downward with a series of switchbacks that take you past a pleasing mix of trees and shrubbery. You’ll want to look high, and look low.

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To see everything on a summer day, you must start early and allow yourself time to linger the entire day, maybe even have a picnic outside or dine in at the Kitchen Garden Cafe, which serves fresh fruits and vegetables from the Burpee Kitchen Garden just outside the door.

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Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens has only been open to the public for six years, but it has already earned several distinctions. It is the largest botanical garden in New England. It is one of the few oceanfront botanical gardens in the world. And just this year, TripAdvisor ranked the Gardens the best public garden in the United States. Tops.

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One of the newest areas is the Bibby and Harold Alfond Children’s Garden, which opened in 2010. It is thoroughly enjoyed, judging from the scribbled signs, irregularly shaped gardens and small furniture at every turn. Walking through, it seems there’s a perpetual game of hide-and-go-seek as well as mothers calling to their reluctant children that it’s time to go.

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And no story about Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens is complete without at least a mention of the fairies that live there. Yes, that’s right. Every Friday through the summer is Fairy Friday, where kids dress up as fairies and adults can try their hand at making little fairy houses. Some of those structures obviously become a permanent part of the landscape—not to mention a permanent home for nymphs, trolls and wood fairies.

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Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens is open every day except Christmas and New Year’s Day. Though busy now in summer, it’s worth a stop any time of year.

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